Iran will do a deal with the west – but only if there’s no loss of dignity

Reader RichardH sent me a link to the UK  Guardian article Iran will do a deal with the west – but only if there’s no loss of dignity.

Speaking about Iran’s present political system, Hooman Majd wrote the following:

Beyond building the world’s first modern theocracy, which some revolutionaries and perhaps a large percentage of the then silent population never bargained for, the revolution was as much about Persian dignity and greatness as it was about overthrowing a despotic monarchy. It isn’t just pride, as some suggest, that governs popular support for the nuclear programme (or any other technical accomplishment), although Iranians are proud – perhaps overly so – of their 5,000-year history and culture, and can be accused of faith in Persian exceptionalism in much the same way the US has in its own.

I think about the application of this idea in our relations with Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria. and some other countries.  When we don’t give them the respect that they feel they deserve and we try to take away their sense of dignity, then it ought to be no surprise to us that they won’t agree with us on almost anything.  The more we heighten our threats and reprisals against these countries, the more recalcitrant and counter threatening they become.

Think about this same part of human nature in our domestic relations between President Obama and the Congressional Republicans.  In the beginning, Obama tried to win them over by giving them far more respect than they were giving to him.  They did not reciprocate.  It took many years for Obama to learn that his way of gaining their cooperation was not going to work.  In fact, the escalating threats by the Republicans against Obama have finally convinced him that he has  to stand up to them.

In the foreign policy domain, Obama at first took a conciliatory tone to many of our adversaries.  However, he reversed policy with them far  faster than he did with the Republicans.  Ironically, if he had  stayed the course in foreign policy, he might have got some reciprocity that he was never going to get from the Republicans.

In fact, it might have been showing deference to Republican sensitivities for him to take harsher stands in foreign policy.  It didn’t win him any fiends among the Republicans, and  it has only made things worse among some of our adversaries that seemed to be coming around to a more conciliatory approach themselves.  Just think of the sanctions we have imposed on Russia as a reward for the help they gave us in dealing with Syria.

This consideration of too many sides in all these situations has left me with one conclusion.  No single approach to relations is always appropriate in every situation.  You have to try to figure out the best approach for each situation.


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